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Puerto Rico Man Sentenced to Life in Prison in 2009 Mass Shooting

U.S. Department of Justice October 24, 2013
  • Office of Public Affairs (202) 514-2007/TDD (202) 514-1888

WASHINGTON—David Oquendo-Rivas, 29, was sentenced today to life in prison for his role in the murder of eight people and an unborn child during a mass shooting at a Puerto Rico nightclub in 2009.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez made the announcement.

Oquendo-Rivas and his co-defendant, Alexis Candelario-Santana, were convicted by a federal jury on March 8, 2013. Oquendo-Rivas was convicted of 28 counts of committing violent crimes in aid of racketeering activity and nine counts of using a firearm in relation to a crime of violence. These offenses occurred on October 17, 2009, in what became known as the La Tómbola Massacre. Candelario-Santana was sentenced to life in prison on August 28, 2013.

According to the evidence presented at trial, Oquendo-Rivas was recruited by Candelario-Santana in 2009 to assist Candelario-Santana in reinstituting control over his drug trafficking organization, which operated principally in Sabana Seca, Toa Baja, Puerto Rico. The organization purchased drugs in bulk, processed and packaged the drugs, and sold them at Sabana Seca through numerous sellers, runners, and enforcers under Candelario-Santana’s control. The organization sold crack, cocaine, heroin, and marijuana, and members of the organization routinely possessed firearms to protect its drug points.

On October 17, 2009, the new leader of Candelario-Santana’s drug trafficking organization, who had displaced Candelario-Santana, held the grand opening of a nightclub he had rented and refurbished called La Tómbola, located in Toa Baja, Puerto Rico, complete with a popular live band and a festive Paso Fino horse parade, known as a “cabalgata.” The event was heavily attended, with families congregating inside and outside the establishment, most of whom had nothing to do with the drug trafficking organization and merely resided in the general area. At approximately 11:50 p.m., Oquendo-Rivas, Candelario-Santana, and others—all of whom were heavily armed—drove to La Tómbola. When they arrived, they immediately opened fire indiscriminately on all the patrons located outside, many of whom were women, children, and elderly people. Oquendo-Rivas and Candelario-Santana stormed into the La Tómbola, and Candelario-Santana was heard to yell “no one gets out alive” as they opened fire on the people inside.

In all, eight people and an eight-month unborn child were killed as a result of the gunfire at La Tómbola, and 19 other victims were shot and injured. The evidence introduced at trial demonstrated that 335 expended shell-casings were recovered from the La Tómbola crime scene. The ballistics evidence established that three AK-47-type assault rifles, one AR-15-type assault rifle, eight 9mm semi-automatic pistols, three 40-caliber semi-automatic pistols, and two 45-caliber semi-automatic pistols were used in the attack.

Oquendo-Rivas and another individual were discovered several days following the massacre with three pistols, one of which was scientifically matched to the La Tómbola massacre.

The case was investigated by the FBI and the Puerto Rico Police Department, with the collaboration of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearm,s and Explosives; the U.S. Postal Inspection Service; Instituto de Ciencias Forenses; and the Puerto Rico Department of Justice. The case was prosecuted by First Assistant U.S. Attorney María Dominguez-Victoriano and Assistant U.S. Attorney Marcela C. Mateo of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Puerto Rico and Trial Attorney Bruce R. Hegyi of the Criminal Division’s Capital Case Section.

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